Tag Archives: Transpersonal Experience

The Nectar of the Name- A Story about Kirtan, Lila, and the Hanuman Chalisa

“People don’t know- every line of the Hanuman Chalisa is a Maha Mantra”
Neem Karoli Baba 

Many of us have come to kirtan and felt inspired, felt our sorrows lifted, or even experienced a deep healing or surrender. These are beautiful experiences that are meant to be cherished, but they are also ultimately just initial doorways into a rich and satisfying journey to God. Kirtan is more than just a temporary experience or emotional high. It is an opportunity to gain a taste of the nectar of devotion.

Just like in any worldly relationship, we first feel an attraction to someone, and some “high” in our body tells us we like them. If this initial attraction turns into a relationship, then over the years it has the opportunity to deepen into something even more satisfying than we could initially imagine. It has the possibility of offering an incredible healing and deeper sense of safety in the world. If this is true for a worldly relationship, then what to say of a Divine one?

What if our Lover was Perfect? What if They had no desires of Their own, save maybe for us to attain our own liberation? What if this Lover lived in our own heart as our True Nature? What if falling in Love with Them meant falling in Love with everyone, including ourselves? What if this Love affair fostered a sense of safety that stayed with us? Even through our most difficult times? Even through sickness, old age, and death? This is what kirtan can offer us- a chance to gain a taste of this nectar and to deepen this Holy Relationship.

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Mistaking Planes of Consciousness

There is this place in the woods outside of Eugene that I would often go to clear my head. It was a short drive and hike to reach my favorite spot, a small clearing with an unassuming tree that I claimed as my own. On this particular day, I sat down in my little forest oasis with an extra-heavy weight. I was pretty lost in life- jobless, aimless and floundering, and this confusion draped over me as an all-consuming depression. I pulled out my pipe and loaded it with some weed. There were no other drugs involved. I sat there after taking the first hit when I heard a rustling in the distance. I looked around but did not see anything. I was about to take my second hit when I heard a giggle.  It was a boyish-sounding laugh coming from behind a tree in front of me, maybe about 20 feet away.

I saw a head peak out from behind the tree. The face was green and triangular, and it smiled at me. What… the… fuck…? Stepping out from behind the tree, I shit you not, was a little green elf.  It giggled as it took off in a wild sprint towards me, leaping forth from the tree as each step bounced from the mossy forest floor. My jaw unhinged, body in shock, mind racing and not even ready yet to believe my own eyes, the elf jumped into the air and flew towards my face until, get this, it disappeared right into the back of my head. It still lives there, inside of my mind. It talks to me from time to time, and it has never led me astray. It gives me good advice. Life advice. It helps me. It helped me to enroll back in school, start going to the gym, helped me enter a new relationship and get my current job as a boss of a fire crew. I don’t feel lost any more.

This is one of the more far-out stories I have ever been told, however, it is still one of many. I have had sincere people tell me their experiences involving UFOs, Ascended Masters, Ghosts, Angels, Quija Boards, Sasquatch… you name it. And these were the stories that I believed. I did not have the sense that any of these people were lying, nor that they were confused or delusional. In my own spiritual community, I can’t even count how many people have told me they saw and interacted with saint Neem Karoli Baba, a being that left his body in 1973. They were not talking about dreams or visions, but actually seeing and interacting with him in this physical world. I have, of course, had my own set of far-out experiences, some of which I have written about on this blog. It’s up to you if you want to believe any of this or not. There are some people who have permanently closed off this door of reality, but for those of us who remain open, what are we to make of this?

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Psychedelic Awakening

These medicines will allow you to come and visit Christ, but you can only stay two hours. Then you have to leave again. This is not the true Samadhi. It’s better to become Christ than to visit him – but even the visit of a saint for a moment is useful. But love is the most powerful medicine.

Neem Karoli Baba

I will always have the highest respect for psychedelics. I am ecstatic by the current resurgence in research and the steady change in public perception. This post is my own small way to help break the taboo. The honest truth is that I would have never met Ram Dass or found the spiritual path if it was not for these early adventures, nor would I currently be working on my MSW or be doing any of the work I am doing. This experience, although one of the more memorable, was one of many, and it offered me a taste of faith, one that only really took root after meeting Ram Dass and coming in contact with my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Regardless, this was the first blossoming of the seed, the first rustling leaves of an awakening, the kindling on the fire of love…

We had taken two gel tabs of L.S.D., and it was coming on strong. Dan and I walked to a nearby city park in Eugene, OR, the manicured lawn displaying geometric fractals bordered by pulsing coniferous trees. The energy in my body was building fast, and it became difficult to move. I sat down in the lotus posture, a habit I had developed from the last year of active experimentation. I closed my eyes and began breathing. This began to calm the energy in my body, but it didn’t do anything for my deep unanswered question. Is God real?

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Guru Kripa

It is not necessary to meet your guru on the physical plane. The guru is not external.

-Neem Karoli Baba (Miracle of Love)

For me, the Guru is how God becomes personal. The Guru shows me that God is not just an Eternal, Impartial, Truth, or even an All-Pervading Essence of Love, but is also a Being who loves me and all of us unconditionally. Before meeting the Guru, I had faith in God, but not a personal relationship. It was the Guru that gave that to me. Now I see that the lines of the Guru Stotram are true: “There is no truth higher than the Guru, no practice higher than the Guru, and no knowledge higher than the Guru.”

For some of us the Guru can take the form of a physical person on earth. A true Siddha, or Perfected Master, is a Being that has no ego. When you look at Them, all you see is the divine radiance of God shining through. There are no impurities to block the light. This Divine Presence is within all of us as our True Nature, but it is clouded by a web of desire and self-identification. A Siddha has none of that. You can clearly hear the voice of God in Their words, and Their body is a living Murti.  Their very life is the wisdom of the Vedas.

Such a Being cannot die. Their physical body may fall away, but the God within was never confined to that body anyway. We can still use Their form to connect with Them. We can look at Their pictures, sing to Them, travel to Their temples, and experience Their Grace through satsang with other devotees. The Guru shows Their devotees that They are still here, often times through dreams, synchronicities or miracles, but always through an inner knowing of the heart.

“When two or three people gather in my name, I am there” Christ (Matt 18:20).

The personal relationship with Christ experienced by many members of the Christian faith could be seen as an example of this. For me and for other members of the Neem Karoli Baba satsang, we refer to our Guru as Maharajji, a Siddha that left His body in 1973. Of course, if we don’t feel called to a specific form of the Guru, we can still connect to Her.

The Universal Guru is the God within every heart, and we can connect to Him by reading about any of the saints we are drawn to. Each one is a different mask of God, as if She just swaps bodies the way we might change clothes. This analogy took on new meaning for me the day I met Ram Dass for the first time. Still jolted by the Shakti of that encounter, I had a vision that night as I fell asleep on the beach. I saw two figures hovering in front of me, Jesus and Maharajji. They were both levitating a few feet off the ground, and a subtle light illuminated their bodies as they each shapeshifted back and forth into each others’ forms. Jesus would turn into Maharajji at the same moment that Maharajji would turn into Christ. This lasted for maybe 5-10 seconds, and then I fell asleep.

Some of us might not require any form. Since the Guru is within, if we are truly quiet, we can hear that still, small voice. The moments when I am connected to my intuitive heart are when I can most clearly see that the Guru guides every step of the journey.

I remember a dream I had shortly before I moved in to live with Ram Dass. Maharajji and I were both in a room together. He was barking ridiculous orders at me, and I was blissfully complying with all of them. “Bend over! Now point one arm up towards the sky! Point the other arm down! Spin in a circle! Now walk backwards!” We both laughed hysterically as my body spun around in the most awkward shape. I woke up from that dream in a state of incomparable joy. The message was clear- Maharajji is the puppet master, I am the puppet, and this dance we enact together is one full of rich, cosmic humor.

Even moments of confusion are the Guru doing His needed work. In suffering I find I am often ripped away into the deepest surrender. It is these moments that I cling to the Guru, not as a spiritual practice or an exercise in devotion or faith, but out of necessity. Sometimes it feels like hanging on for dear life. Other times it’s like I’m completely helpless to do anything, and yet there the Guru is, holding me when I can no longer hold on to anything.

“You can leave me. I won’t leave you. Once I catch hold of you, I don’t let go.”

-Neem Karoli Baba (Miracle of Love)

This is Guru Kripa, or the Grace of the Guru.  It is the realization that we are His, that the Guru has us wrapped up in Her warm embrace, that every aspect of our lives serves to draw us towards Them. All we need to do is listen to our heart, and, even when we forget, that too is a part of the Perfection that is the Grace of the Guru. It is through this Grace that we gain faith. This faith is not the same as a belief. Belief is in the mind, but faith is deeper than that. It is a knowing of the heart that the Grace of the Guru is with us every step of the way.

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An Encounter with Christ

Below is a record of the day when there was no doubt that I had met the Guru. Its the day that I gained a true faith in Grace. Since that day She has taught me that there is only One, True Guru, and He/She/It is beyond anything that we can grasp.  The Guru is within. It’s the deepest reaches of our own heart, but It’s also a relationship. It’s not just love in an impersonal form, but that which loves us and wants nothing more than our evolution towards that love. Its that gentle hand of Grace that helps us along our path. It can come to us in the form of an angel, spirit guide, or our own Inner Voice.  For me, the Guru has come to me in the form of the great Indian Saint Neem Karoli Baba, but my first meeting was not in that form.

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

It was the Summer of 2008. I had just turned 23 years old. I moved to Eugene, Oregon for the summer to work as a wildland firefighter. This was my second summer in Eugene doing this work, and so my plan was to stay with Alden, a fellow firefighter, as we waited for the call to action. Due to a paperwork error at my fire company, I was not eligible to firefight when the call came to ship out to California.

It was a big fire, and the entire company was sent down there except me. This left me alone in Eugene, waiting until the error was fixed so I could go with them. In the meantime, the lease on Alden’s room was up and his next house would not be available for ten days. Alden and I were going to stay with some of his friends, but now he was out on fire and had no cell service. The only people I knew in town were firefighters who were all gone as well. So I made the best of it and decided to sleep in the city park until either the house became available, or I got the fire call.

In the meantime, I was dead broke and had debt to pay.  About seven months earlier I had been scammed out of 8,000 dollars, all of the money I had in my savings. (That is a story for another day.) After this I decided to move to the desert to work on myself and do some soul-searching. I was camping on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico and working just enough to buy food, see my spiritual healer and pay off my student loans. The solitude of desert life allowed me to practice pranayama, meditation and other spiritual exercises, thus I experienced some extreme spiritual highs. This was a big deal to me because it was the first time I had ever been “high” without the use of drugs. I used these peak experiences as a marker for my spiritual “progress.”

I was not saving any money, however, and on my way back to Seattle I had car troubles that ended up maxing out my credit card. My credit card company, as a penalty for maxing out my card, raised my interest rate to 30 percent. I was not even able to pay off the interest as it accrued.

Not only was I broke and in debt, but emotionally broken. Once I returned to Seattle, all of the spiritual work I had done felt like it had completely shattered. I was having trouble reconnecting to my old friends and found myself still in love with a girl I had worked very hard to get over.

So here I was, homeless in Eugene and extremely depressed. I began having intense periods of longing for some Guru to come and take me away on my path to liberation, some Divine Being who could make everything alright. I had read Be Here Now, and I remembered its solemn words, “It’s really just another cop-out to be searching for the Guru.” God is within, and by waiting for some external thing to save me, I was just pausing the inevitable.

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